Thursday, March 7, 2013

SYMBIOSIS: A Creative Commons Art Book



Welcome back to another Kickstarter Conversation!  Today I am honored to be joined by the creative force that is Steven Sanders.  Steven is here to talk to us today about his latest creative endeavor SYMBIOSIS: A Creative Commons Art Book.  Thank you for joining us today Steven!  

Thanks very much! I am at your service.

It seems being a published artist at Image and Marvel was enough for you eh?  You’ve come to the Kickstarter community with an art book now?  Though it sounds like it’s more than just another art book is that correct?  

Very much so. Symbiosis is part sequential story, and part world-building manual. What may set it most apart is that it is intended to be taken by the reader and used in whatever way they wish. They can use the art and designs for roleplaying game, to write stories, use the designs for comics, cosplay, the list goes on and on. It’s a toolkit for creativity.  

Not only is your own resume quite impressive but you’ve also got famous spokespeople from across the comic world to say good things about you.  That’s quite a feat!  Though I have to think pulling Tesla from the dead has to be the hardest endorsement of all.  How did you swing that one?  

I have a machine for reanimating the dead for short periods in my basement. The “for short periods” comes from the fact that it uses so much power that half the city goes into brown-out if I use it for very long.



Seriously though your work looks amazing and as you say quite “evocative.”  Was it these comments of the evocative nature of your work the driving force behind this project?  

Largely, yes. Writers telling me repeatedly that they saw stories in my work encouraged me to make this and to release it into the public. I think that every consumer is a creator as well, as we have seen from all of the fan fiction out there, among other things. I’m really excited to see what stories people see in these drawings and painting and what they do with that.

Tell us the tooth about the truth.  I mean truth about the tooth, it was really the key that let you bring this whole world together wasn’t it?

Pretty much. I wasn’t interested in a world where these biological entities/engines were at a level of awareness anything close to that of a human, so giving the bio-engines a decentralized nervous system, and letting the controller act as the “brain” seemed the easiest way to address that issue.  The Resonance Tooth is the key to utilizing technology in the world of Symbiosis.

Steampunk seems to be the genre du jour lately, but you’re going for a 1940s-ish “bio-punk.”   What makes “bio-punk” different from Steampunk?  

Fewer randomly placed gears. Honestly, it’s a term that I started using because I couldn’t quite come up with a better one. There are apparently a number of variations on the “-punk” nomenclature, cyberpunk, dieselpunk, etc etc. But to compare it to Steampunk, in this book the average level of technology is from around the 1930s-40s, and the power sources are biological rather than steam based.

The Hardback you’re trying to make with this Kickstarter is a pretty serious book!  The Smyth Sewn style book is definitely designed to last for lifetimes, why are you going with such a high quality design?  

I really appreciate high quality books. I like books as fine craft. Something to be cherished. Fewer things are more disappointing than seeing pages fall out of a book you love. The Symth Sewn backing will stop that. The other touches are all from old books that I have collected, and appreciated throughout my life.  I tried to replicate everything that I love about those old books while still making it affordable for an average person.

One of the most amazing thing about this project is you’re releasing it under the Creative Commons license!  What possessed you to do such a thing?  

Not doing it seemed kind of like hosting a party and then not inviting anyone.

What does a release under Creative Commons mean for small creators like myself?  I understand I could create 3D models based off of the concepts you’ll be including, but what else could I do?  Could I release a Fate Core Sourcebook using your art in the book?  

Absolutely. I already know someone who wants to do this, and someone else who wants to cosplay as one of the characters in the preview art. You can make comics, you can use the illustrations in novels.. anything you can think of to do with it is allowable. There is a Non-Commercial clause to this, but unless you are a major production house, I won’t ask for any cut or fee. We’ll just sign a contract giving you commercial rights as long as you share-alike, and acknowledge the source material, and that will be that.

Not only are you a talented artist and world builder you’re also a prop maker?  How long have you been making props?  What made you want to add these as high end options for the project?  

I’ve messed around with sculpting, and I was going to be an electrical engineer before I decided to go to art school. So I’ve made things for years.

I wanted to give people the option of having something physical from this world. Something that they could use as a touchstone of sorts, to make the world of Symbiosis that much more real.

You have MANY highly interesting backer reward levels on your project, but the $50 “Apprentice II” one really caught my eye.  “Symbiosis e-book plus 1/2 hour Skype portfolio review. We will pore over your work, be it concept, sequential, or cover work, for a 1/2 hour. I'll teach you every concept design trick I can in this time-frame. If you are already really good, spare time can be spent chatting if you are so inclined.”  That sounds like a very rare chance to have one-on-one time with you!  What made you think of tossing that one in there?  Would this be worth while for non-traditional artists?  Say 3D/Digital artists?  

I honestly forget where that idea came from. Hm. Well, anyway, it wouldn’t be that much help for 3D artists, I’m afraid; that’s not really an area that I’m very experienced in. I do make a lot of digital artwork, though, so digital artists are no problem at all.


How did you discover Kickstarter?

Probably someone talking about it on Twitter, I’d guess.

One week into the project and you’re already halfway there, how do you feel about that?

Pretty excited and hopeful. I have some great stretch goals in mind, and if we can make it past 50K, I’m eager to let people see them.

A key part of successful Kickstarters is backer participation and how to convert a potential backer into a full backer.   How are you engaging your backers?  What kinds of things do you have planned for updates to give notice to those who just hit the “remind me” button and surf on?  Interviews?  Videos?  Stories from the project?

Thus far I’ve given some behind the scenes glimpses, introduced some fascinating people I’ve met through the project, and I’ll be adding some additional art soon. I’m kind of winging this part, so who knows! I’m providing updates about whatever I’m excited about. It seems the most sincere and unforced way of approaching it. I doubt if people want to hear from a marketing robot.

SYMBIOSIS: A Creative Commons art book -- Kicktraq Mini 

What kind of media attention have you received with your project?  How are you spreading the word?  Facebook?  Twitter?  Google+? Youtube?  Advertising?  Are you using Kicktraq to track your progress?  

I’ve used everything but youtube and advertising. I just learned about Kicktraq from you, which is a really neat tool, thanks!

Twitter has probably been the biggest contributor from social media. I have a lot of great friends who have many more followers than I do, and they are fantastic about helping to spread the word. I really appreciate their help, and that of everyone else who helps get the word out.

Do you have any tips/advice would you give to anyone looking to start a Kickstarter?

Read up everything that you can about how successful campaigns work, and what problems can come up if you have a “successful” campaign but you didn’t plan your rewards correctly, and you end up in the red. It’s not uncommon for people to raise a lot of money, only to find that they didn’t build enough profit into their rewards to actually cover their costs. Fred Hicks told me to plan for a worst case situation where a low priced but high cost of material/shipping reward sells like hotcakes, leaving you with a met goal but very little money to make your actual product with.


Thank you for spending your time with us!  Do you have any final thoughts for our readers?


Thank you! If you like the Symbiosis project, support it if you can, and if you can’t, please tell anyone you think may be interested about it. It’s a really fun project, and I’m excited to see what people are going to build using this world.


Thanks again and I hope to hear good things from your Kickstarter!

Thanks very much!